“It was no longer possible to watch what was happening in the village.” The foundation educates citizens about politics

They are active, they don’t care how they live in their city or town or what their environment is like. So they engage in civic associations and try to change things for the better. But they come up against resistance from the town hall or difficult negotiations with the authorities. They will therefore begin to think about entering municipal politics. But they don’t believe if they could do such work. The Fondation Via’s “Let’s not be afraid of municipal politics” program has just been entrusted to them.

“In many municipalities, the town hall only repairs the sidewalks, otherwise they do not contribute to any improvement in local life. Then there are the firefighters and the falcons who act in their own way and above all for themselves. Štěpán Drahokoupil, the program manager of the Via Foundation, which is also in charge of the program Do not be afraid of municipal politics, explains the motivation of the people.

The program has been running for three years. In August and September, the foundation will open a call for applications. The application asks questions about their functioning in communities or associations, about other experiences and about the motivation to complete their program. Among the followers, the commission selects the finalists with whom the interviews take place. In the second round, they choose the group’s final song, which is usually about twenty people.

Most of the successful candidates already have experience in community or association activities, but they wish to take their activities further. Starting a family is often the turning point. This new life experience will open their eyes. “Many applications start with these words: ‘I am a mother of two children and I decided to join the community because there is no suitable crèche, there is no playground, there is no nothing happens around here'”, says Drahokoupil.

As part of the “incubator” for elected municipal officials, they will teach participants how to orient themselves in legal and procedural matters, in the functioning of the council, they will train them in citizen participation, people management or to budgeting. “We keep our graduates in mind and see how they then become, for example, number one or number two candidates in municipal elections,” says Štěpán Drahokoupil.

Even at the end of the program, its graduates have the opportunity to consult mentors and other experts to solve practical problems, either in a civic association that negotiates with the town hall, or in the council.

Don’t ask what the community can do for you…

Nine years ago, IT manager Hana Rakšány moved from Brno to the village of Kanice in the Brno-venkov district. The village known for the headquarters of the archives of the security forces or the Hády television transmitter has about a thousand inhabitants and Austrians work here in associations that organize cultural and social events.

With the same group of people, they mounted a candidate for the independents. She has yet to make it to the local council in the last election, but ahead of this year she has much more experience through the Via Foundation program. “The program has given us all the information that it’s good for the rep to know, so I’ll be a lot more confident now,” he said.

Hana Rakšány ran in Kanice in the last municipal elections and failed. Thanks to the incubator, the Via Foundation is much better prepared for this year. | Photo: Hana Rakšány Archive

In addition, she received a small grant from the foundation, thanks to which she was able to invite people from the Oživení organization to the association. They are lawyers and analysts who strive for more accommodating and effective self-government and advise citizens on how to participate in the management of the municipality. They also trained other Kanican candidates. “Everyone is much better prepared now,” says the Rakshan, who will top the list.

Thanks to the program, she also has her mentor, who is an experienced mayor from Lovčice near Chlumec nad Cidlinou. He cooperates with her even after the end of the program and discusses with her all matters concerning the council and the functioning of the municipality.

When asked why she decided to go public, she replied, “If I were paraphrasing Kennedy’s words, I would say, ‘Don’t ask what your community can do for you. Ask what you can do for your community. Because living here all alone with your hands on your knees without caring about the things around would be nothing to me. »

I don’t feel silly anymore spending time in the village

Petra Korlaar teaches at a high school in Mikulov, South Moravia, a well-known wine town. He is a volunteer for the Národy Podyjí association, which focuses on connecting people from different cultures. She became its president and joined the ornamental association, which is dedicated to restoring the state to the original character of the landscape before the Second World War, when the fields were not yet as well integrated as they are today. . They negotiate with various actors, from large companies to small individuals, and discuss with them how to prevent further drying of the landscape or save old varieties of trees.

Petra Korlaar at the Podyjí Nations Festival.

Petra Korlaar at the Podyjí Nations Festival. | Photo: Petra and Nico Korlaar

“I thought for a long time that I would get even more actively involved in what was happening in Mikulov, especially municipal politics, but I waited for my daughter to grow up a bit to be able to devote myself effectively to activities”, says- he. . Therefore, in the last elections to the council, she has not yet presented herself and has to date four years of federal activity to “warm up”. She joined the movement of mayors and independents because she likes the principle that politicians are recruited from municipalities and small towns, which then links national politics to municipal politics. Today, she leads the candidacy and wishes to apply for the position of deputy mayor.

However, she doubted for a long time whether she really had such a path. “The Via Foundation program brought me not only know-how, but also a wide circle of people who, like me, faced their transformation from active citizen to municipal politician. We had similar motivations and similar stories, we stopped feeling crazy that so much personal time was spent in the village,” he smiles. He praises the fact that after completing the incubator, he is more confident in problem solving and now has people with whom he can consult them. “For me, this experience was absolutely crucial”, he concludes.

The council kept the time of the meeting and the program secret

Kateřina Procházková lives in the village of Radotín in the Přerov region. Only 181 inhabitants live here, so sometimes it is a problem to pass the candidate at all, some are taken into account. However, that could be different in this year’s municipal elections. Dissatisfaction with the way the current representatives govern is growing in the village. Therefore, Procházková founded the Pro Radotín association, which began to strictly control the activities of the council, and is also involved in the organization of cultural events and the protection of the surrounding nature.

Kateřina Procházková from Radotín u Přerova founded the Pro Radotín association and controls the council's activities.

Kateřina Procházková from Radotín u Přerova founded the Pro Radotín association and controls the council’s activities. | Photo: Archive of Kateřina Procházková

“I was never interested in politics, I always didn’t care who ran the municipality. But when we discovered that our council was not respecting municipal law, we had to dive into it,” she explains.

According to her, the current council did not provide the requested information, did not publish the time, place and time of the public meeting or its agenda. “When I told the mayor, he told me they hadn’t done it in thirty years and they wouldn’t, because if they needed someone, they would. would invite,” he says.

From the first meeting, she discovered that the deputies voted badly, they did not decide by an absolute majority of all the deputies, but only of those present. Gradually, she discovers other shortcomings and tries to attract everyone’s attention. “But thanks to the Via Foundation program, I know that many active people face similar problems, that I have no one to turn to for advice, and we can gradually share our experiences,” says- he. He is currently planning to run in this year’s elections.

The turning point was the birth of a son

Roman Hájek works in marketing and lives in Kladno. He has been active on the local cultural scene for many years, editing the magazine Kladno Záporno, founded the website Kladno past and later the Halda association, whose aim was to revive this town of almost 70,000 inhabitants. The motto of its members is inspired by the mining past of Kladno: “We collect pieces of quality coal from a pile of tailings”. They organize Science Cafés, i.e. lectures and discussions with scientists in cafes, organize educational nature walks, historical walks or literary evenings, and also publish books about Kladno.

Roman Hájek, founder of the Heap, leader of the Kladno Pirates for the 2022 municipal elections.

Roman Hájek, founder of the Heap, leader of the Kladno Pirates for the municipal elections 2022. | Photo: Karel Pazderka

Activities related to the quality of neighborhood relations or public space have begun to pack their bags for the benefit of cultural and social events. “There, we touched the politics more than the fact that the inhabitants expressed their frustrations with what was happening in the city or its inability to engage with the citizens,” says Hájek.

According to him, the major turning point in the decision to get even more involved was the birth of his son. “A person begins to look at their residence from the perspective of the city where they bring the child and where they would like to raise them,” he says.

The second impulse for him was the return of Mayor Milan Wolf to the leadership of the city in 2020. “It’s difficult for me to work in such a toxic environment. But doing politics? Anyway, politics is c is dirt, so why ruin your karma?” “describes with a smile the leader of the Tas his deliberations.

Eventually he entered the program for potential job seekers. He considers the greatest benefit to be meeting many municipal politicians with different life experiences. He also gained a better understanding of the mechanisms by which policy at this level is formed, as well as how to enforce things that ‘deviate from the established order’. He found that communal politics could be understood, that there were plenty of honest people, and that other “inspiring souls” were considering joining. “Knowing that you are not alone will make you incredibly stronger,” he adds.

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